Solitude

Before bringing this chapter to a close a few more remarks on lassitude require to be made.

If as well as being a response to Heidegger Levinas's account of fatigue is a response to Husserl's account of retension in the upsurge of the present, and if dilatoriness is his revision of Husserlian protension, with respect to what tension —or distentio—is lassitude a gloss or an alternative?6 This is not easy to say. Although fatigue and dilatoriness are explicitly related to the act whereas lassitude is related to the self s existence or being, Levinas also describes fatigue as fatigue of being (DEE 50, EE 35). Furthermore, the discussion of fatigue and dilatoriness is introduced by the comment that they are both concrete forms of the adherence of the existent to existence (DEE 28, EE 23). Since we know that for Levinas existence is an act, namely the reflexive but not reflective act of assuming existence, and since fatigue and dilatoriness have been associated with the tensions or tenses of the effort of enduring which he argues are presupposed by durational or ecstatic anticipation and recollection, it is tempting to associate lassitude with a present tension or tense. Because the present is constituted in part by fatigue and dilatoriness, lassitude would be perhaps the mood or modality that straddles or embraces these. It would not be then a concrete way of being of presence as opposed to the concrete ways of preparation and retardation. It would be rather a concrete form of the present's essence as evanescence which the other two concrete forms help to explain, but not through a dialectic of negation as in the corresponding argument in the Encyclopaedia where Hegel writes:

The finite present is the Now fixed as being [seiend] and distinguished as the concrete unity, and hence as the affirmative, from what is negative, from the abstract moments of past and future; but this being is itself only abstract, vanishing into nothing'.7

Moreover, would not fatigue with regard to a given or, better, taken instant of effort be deferment with regard to the instant to come? And would not deferment with regard to the instant to come be fatigue with regard to the instant already initiated? We can only speculate here. Words are lacking at least in Levinas's text. But, since the text tells us explicitly, we do not need to speculate whether the three tensions taken together are forms of the gravity of labour rather than forms of the grace of innocent play. They accomplish the laboriousness to which one is condemned when one is freed from impersonal being to being oneself. It is to this laboriousness, to the very burden of being, Levinas remarks, and not only to the specific labours of fetching and carrying in order to survive in the world that Genesis 3:19 refers when Adam is told 'In the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread'. Work is an affliction, an evil. God's curse is a malediction. What is mistakenly said to be the joy of work is always the joy of something extraneous to it, for example its results. Lassitude is a proneness to faint and fall asleep under the burden of being. It is the évanouissement in the evanescence of the present. Lassitude is the Last, as German has it, the load. It is the weight that makes one late. It is what has to be lasted out, hat, as Heidegger's German has it. It is the Leistung, the endurance in duration.

It is a response to a charge. Nulla lassitude inpedire officium debet. No lassitude should hinder the carrying out of one's responsibility. Existantial responsibility is the one-must-be, before the one-must-do. Older than the falling, Verfallen, that according to Being and Time is older than original sin and yet is connected in that book most closely not with the past but with the present ecstasis of time, lassitude is perhaps the il faut of a failing that is not a lack but a falloir that is both a fault and a binding that not even the radical sceptic can dodge: a must that he or she affirms in denying it. One must be one. Un Levinas writes here (DEE 51, EE 35), though not yet unique. For he also writes here, by way of a final comment on par-esse: 'it announces perhaps that the future, a virgin instant, is impossible for a solitary subject' (DEE 40, EE 29).

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